Treating Roads for Winter Weather: What works and when

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – In Huntsville, they pile up salt and work on winter prep early. Huntsville Director of Public Works Terry Hatfield says they start back in October so by this time of year, “All they got to do is load up and go.”

They have a lot to load.

They have a small mountain of gravel at their disposal, but they say they might use as much as five-hundred pounds of it on Green Mountain alone.

You may have seen other agencies treating roads ahead of time, but Huntsville doesn’t do that. That’s ALDOT, and it works better for some cases than others.

Hatfield explains, “It’s something in the chemical that when stuff hits it, it’s supposed to just kind of dissolve it.”

But he adds in Huntsville, “Our gravel and salt, we don’t put it on. It doesn’t work until something is on the road.”

That will actually work better in this case. All the rain can wash off pretreatments. Meanwhile, the gravel and salt can give traction after the fact.

Though in this winter weather event, there’s a limit to how much they can help. We’ve seen a lot of rain, rather than snow, and now that water is expected to freeze.

Hatfield admits, “The ice is a little bit different. It’s a little bit tougher to treat than the snow.”

After all, Hatfield points out, “Snow you can still drive as long as you’re careful. Just take it slow. Ice – you’re just going to start sliding.”

Still, the city will be out there either way, spreading as much traction as they can.

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